Students benefit from world-first software agreement

Monday, 9 March 1998

Computer software worth about $8.4 million will be made available free to 1500 University of Adelaide students thanks to a world-first agreement negotiated by the Faculty of Engineering.

Mathworks and Ceanet Pty Ltd (the US-based manufacturers and Australian distributors of Matlab products, respectively) is delivering sets of Matlab software to engineering students free of charge for teaching and homework use. The individual academic value of the software packages is $5600-for 1500 individual copies, this equates to $8.4 million.

Matlab, which stands for Matrix Laboratory, is arguably the world's most popular engineering and technical computing software package, with more than two million users.

The University of Adelaide's Faculty of Engineering has been a significant user of Matlab for some time. The departments of Mechanical and Electrical & Electronic Engineering in particular have utilised Matlab for both teaching and research for years, and have developed a large volume of tutorial material based around the software.

"The faculty was able to leverage its past and present academic and financial commitment to the software in arranging the deal, which is the first of its kind in the world," says Dr Scott Snyder, the Faculty of Engineering's Associate Dean for Information Technology.

"For the Mathworks company, this agreement guarantees that the country's top engineering students are fluent users of their software when they graduate. The Matlab deal is also another major step in what the faculty sees as its development of Information Technology in Teaching," he says.

Dr Snyder says providing students with the software they need is a more practical approach than making it available via the internet.

"At present, the majority of technology-based teaching projects are being directed at putting material 'on the web'. But this general notion is often a poor one for engineering subjects, particularly those taught in latter years. Solution of non-trivial engineering problems requires computationally intensive mathematics software, which is difficult to run on a single host

"A more practical approach for undergraduate engineering education is to start with a suitable software package, one which can be made widely available on in-house computers and provided to students for home use, and develop teaching and learning programs around it."

The Engineering Faculty has four large computing suites and a plug-in suite for laptop computers. These computer suites are open to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dr Snyder says Matlab will continue to be available to all students on these facilities, but he hopes many students will now decide to use the software on their home computers.

"About 75% of the student body has home access to computers. If they use the free software to solve tutorial exercises at home, that will help free up in-house terminals which can be used by those students who don't have home computer access."

The free Matlab software will be delivered to students this week on the Faculty of Engineering's 1998 CD-ROM, along with other software packages and electronic course notes.


Contact Details

Dr Scott Snyder
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5469

Ms Robyn Mills
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762